From the mid-19th century through to recent times, Australia has had its share of compelling UFO reports. This week, weirdaustralia takes a look at some of the most intriguing Australian UFO encounters.
Airships of 1909
During the winter of 1909, much of southeast Australia was abuzz with reports of mysterious lights flying through the skies, leaving witnesses baffled as to what they were and from where they had come. Some thought them planets, others thought them lanterns attached to kites, while one witness thought they might be “Japanese airships”.
Following sightings of similar mysterious lights in the skies above New Zealand, reports soon appeared in newspapers across Australia of similar unknown lights observed in the heavens. One such sighting, by a reliable witness it must be said, appeared in Broken Hill’s The Barrier Miner on 9 August 1909.
“The Rev. B. Cozens, of the Port Melbourne Seamen’s Mission, tells an interesting story regarding the mysterious lights which appeared in the air over the Dandenong Ranges on Saturday night.
“Going outside at 10 o’clock, he saw, half a mile up in the air, two revolving lights moving over the ranges. They slowed down, dipped, and rose up again, then changed from white to red and to blue. Mr. Cozens called his wife and three neighbours. They all watched the lights until midnight, by which time one had almost moved out of sight over the ranges. Again at 2 o’clock Mr. Cozens saw the second one, which almost crossed the ranges. Five more appeared in the distance, moving in the direction taken by the other two.”
The following day, another report of strange lights appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald.
“A good deal of excitement was occasioned tonight by the appearance of a mysterious light or an illuminated body to the south-east of the town [of Moss Vale]. Quite a number of people gathered in the main street, and speculation was rife as to the meaning of the strange illumination. Above the large light some large body was distinctly visible, as the rays of light were reflected upon its surface.”
Soon, these strange lights were seen in the skies across the Southern Highlands of New South Wales as well as much further a field.
For example, on 19 August, The Mercury reported that: “Goulburn has had a week’s display, during which the light has, according to report, been observed to move ‘up and down and sideways,’ and once gave a pyrotechnic exhibition, several stars falling about it.”
The flight capabilities of those mysterious “airships” of 1909, according to accounts, certainly appeared to defy what was possible back in those early days of manned flight.
Read more about the airships of 1909.
RAAF pilot reports flying saucers: The Sea Fury Incident
On 16 December 1954, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Nowra Naval Air Station went on alert to watch for unidentified flying objects after a RAAF pilot had reported two flying saucers three months earlier on 31 August.
“Officers at the station said this today during an inspection of the station by the Minister for the Navy, Mr J. Francis.
“Apart from admitting that the objects had been seen, naval officers told journalists accompanying Mr Francis that investigations into the incident were ‘secret’. The station still has not established the nature of the objects seen three months ago,” the Herald reported.
The pilot who reported the UFOs was flying a Sea Fury at night in the Goulburn area.
“He said the objects were lighted. They travelled faster than his aircraft [220 knots] and passed him, flying close to his aircraft at about 15,000 feet. While inflight the pilot reported the objects to the Nowra station by radio.
“Radar operators then tracked the Sea Fury and did locate two other objects in flight. Inquiries later established that there were no aircraft flying in the area at the time. The pilot has since made a full report on the incident to senior officers at Nowra.”
This significant UFO case involving experienced RAAF personnel was investigated by Bill Chalker and the Sea Fury pilot, Lt. J.A O’Farrell was interviewed by famed US UFO investigator Dr Hyneck on his visit to Australia in 1973.
For more on the Sea Fury Incident, read Bill Chalker’s report.
Westall High UFO sighting: Over 200 witnesses
On 6 April 1966, students and teachers of Westall High School in suburban Melbourne watched in amazement as two disc-shaped objects, each about the size of a car, descended from the sky and landed in an open field adjacent to the school. One of the witnesses, science teacher, Andrew Greenwood, described the objects in a newspaper report as being silvery-green and disc-shaped.
While some accounts of this event state that there was one craft, Australian UFO researcher, Bill Chalker’s investigation concluded that there were actually two craft involved.
After watching the strange disc-shaped objects descend, students and teachers excitedly ran from the school and across the oval for a closer look, with several students actually approaching the craft in the field after climbing over a fence. Then, around 20 minutes after they had descended from the sky, the UFOs took off at great speed. One headed west, the other appeared to orbit a small plane before shooting off to the south. Patches of burnt ground were found at the claimed landing site.
In all, over 200 students and teachers of Westall High School witnessed the event making this one of Australia’s most compelling UFO sightings.
In an interesting footnote to the Westall UFO mystery, an interview with one of the witnesses, Joy Tighe, who recounted the event to a Channel 9 news reporter, was, according to the network, later removed from the station’s archive and never returned.
Naturally, there has been much written about the Westall UFO case, you can find out more at AboveTopSecret’s Westall UFO forum.
There is also a documentary you can view Westall 1966: A Suburban UFO Mystery.
And Bill Chalker’s The Oz Files includes his interview with one of the many witnesses to the event, and also describes an earlier encounter with a similar object in the same area.
Frederick Valentich disappearance: It’s hovering, and it’s not an aircraft
In the early evening of 21 October 1978, 21-year-old Frederick Valentich boarded a hired Cessna aircraft and taxied down the runway at Melbourne’s Moorabbin Airport. Valentich planned to fly the Cessna across Bass Strait to King Island, pick up some friends, and perhaps some crayfish, and then return to Melbourne to meet up with his girlfriend.
He never made it to King Island.
Unfortunately, we do not know exactly what happened to Valentich over Bass Strait that night. All we have is the radio transcript between himself and Melbourne Air Traffic Control. Today, that radio transcript lies at the heart of Australia’s greatest UFO mystery.
From the radio transcript of Frederick Valentich’s last communication:
Delta Sierra Juliet – Melbourne. Can you describe the … er – aircraft?
Delta Sierra Juliet … as it’s flying past it’s a long shape’ [open microphone for three seconds] (cannot) identify more than that. It has such speed [open microphone for three seconds]. It is before me right now Melbourne.
Delta Sierra Juliet – Melbourne. It seems like it’s (stationary) or (chasing me). What I’m doing right now is orbiting, and the thing is just orbiting on top of me also … It’s got a green light, and sort of metallic (like). It’s all shiny (on) the outside.
Delta Sierra Juliet. It seems to me that he’s playing some sort of game. He’s flying over me two – three times at a time at speeds I could not identify.
And then, the final transmission made by Valentich:
My intentions are – ah … to go to King Island – Ah, Melbourne, that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again [open microphone for two seconds] it is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.
Delta Sierra Juliet.
Delta Sierra Juliet – Melbourne [open microphone for 17 seconds. A strange pulsed noise is audible during this transmission.] This noise was also described as ”metallic, scraping sounds”.
No trace of Valentich or his plane has ever been found.
Knowles family’s terrifying encounter on Nullarbor Plain
Perhaps one of the strangest Australian UFO encounters is that of the Knowles family as they drove along the lonely Nullarbor Plain in January 1988.
Mother Faye was travelling the long, lonely stretch of highway with her sons, 24-year-old Patrick, Sean aged 21 and 18-year-old Wayne, along with their two dogs. While Sean was driving and his older brother sitting beside him, they saw on the road ahead of them a bright light. Their curiosity piqued, Sean put his foot down in order to catch up to the curious light shining on the road ahead of them.
That would soon prove to be a mistake.
The Knowles’ car soon caught up with that curious bright light that now took the shape of an angular egg in an eggcup with a yellow centre, and estimated at about one metre wide. It appeared to be either on the road or floating just above it, and was moving back and forth. Sean swerved to avoid the object, almost colliding with a car towing a caravan travelling in the opposite direction.
As they continued driving, the Knowles soon became concerned that the glowing egg-shaped object was following them … and then they heard a clunk and felt the car being pushed down by a heavy weight. Then, the car seemed to be lifted off the road. Frightened, Faye wound down her window and reached for the roof. She felt something “soft and rubbery that was hot”. When Faye pulled her arm back inside their vehicle, it was covered in a strange black dust.
The family were now terrified and they soon became disoriented and later recounted that their voices sounded slower and lower in pitch. Patrick later said that he felt like his “brains were being sucked out”. Meanwhile, the car’s speedometer registered speeds that the small car would be highly unlikely to achieve.
Then the car appeared to drop back onto the road, bursting the rear tyre on the right hand side. After pulling off the road, the Knowles jumped out of the car and hid behind some nearby bushes, shaken and scared. Eventually, they returned to the car, changed the tyre and drove at speed to the nearest town.
Physical traces on the car, corroborating evidence from a truck driver and the sincerity in the Knowles’ own testimony on national television point to something extremely out of the ordinary happening on the highway across the Nullarbor Plain in January 1988. But was it a UFO encounter or something else?
According to Jenny Randles, author of Time Storms, the Knowles’ encounter has more to do with a natural phenomenon in which time itself is distorted rather than that of a UFO encounter. Indeed, there appear to be a number of similarities with other cases the author has investigated. But, whether the Knowles were terrorised by an unidentified flying object or inadvertently drove into a so-called “time storm,” there is little doubt that the family experienced something baffling, and terrifying, on that day in the summer of 1988.
More on the Knowles’ encounter on the Nullarbor.
Gosford UFO sucks up water from bay
On New Year’s Eve 1994, police switchboards suddenly lit up with reports of an unidentified illuminated object flying over the waters around Gosford on the Central Coast of New South Wales. According to Sergeant Bob Wenning, callers reported seeing a “huge ball-shaped object with bright lights on the bottom”. To many of the witnesses, it appeared as though the illuminated craft was sucking up water from the bay with beams of light shining down from the object, penetrating the water. Some thought that these beams were turning the water to steam, while others described the water frothing.
Following the many frantic reports received that night from a wide cross-section of the community including prominent local citizens, doctors, teachers, nurses and lawyers, police were despatched to investigate. They soon found themselves chasing a “strange metallic craft” back and forth across the bay.
The police would later report that whenever they came within 50 metres of the UFO, or when car headlights shone near it, the “craft would turn off its own lights and shoot up skywards, out of sight”. One officer compared the swift movements of the craft with “if you had a torch beam and whipped it around”.
During the night of the sightings, residents reported their pets acting strangely, with many hiding and cowering and dogs howling for no apparent reason. Police also reported that as the UFO reports flooded in, local parties previously well behaved, suddenly erupted into antisocial behaviour.
View a refreshingly balanced TV report on the Gosford UFO.
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